Friday, November 23, 2007

Flashback: Alcoholics Anonymous Founder’s House Is a Self-Help Landmark

James Estrin/The New York Times
The house of Bill Wilson and his wife, Lois, in Bedford Hills.
Published: July 6, 2007
BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y., July 3 — The house tour was nearing an end in this Westchester County hamlet, in a region known for its historic sites, from pre-Revolutionary grist mills to Gilded Age mansions. But as the visitors entered the austere pine-paneled office that once belonged to Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, the tour suddenly became a pilgrimage.
James Estrin/The New York Times
The house has been open to the public since Mrs. Wilson died in 1988.
Jean Z. sat down at the smooth oak desk on which Bill W., as he was known, wrote "Alcoholics Anonymous," or the Big Book, and smiled as her A.A. sponsor snapped a picture. Then they switched.

"This, to me, would be the equivalent of a Christian going to the Vatican," said Jean, of Long Island, who has been in A.A. for two years and gave only her last initial in keeping with the program's tradition of anonymity. "To think that he just sat at this desk, a simple man who had a problem and wanted to get better. It's touched my life and saved my life."

For many visitors to Stepping Stones, the gracious Dutch colonial-style house where Mr. Wilson lived with his wife, Lois, for the last 30 years of his life before dying of emphysema in 1971, there is, indeed, something profoundly personal, even spiritual, about the experience. It has been open to the public since 1988, when Mrs. Wilson died at 97. With no children, she left it to the Stepping Stones Foundation, which she had set up in the hope that the site would educate and inspire future generations.

Set on eight wooded acres, the house was purchased by the Wilsons in 1941, several years after Mr. Wilson, a stockbroker, had his last drink and founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Dr. Bob Smith, an Ohio surgeon. So much early A.A. business was conducted here that for a time the organization subsidized some of the couple's housing costs.

This is also where Mrs. Wilson in 1951 created Al-Anon, an offshoot of A.A. for the family members of alcoholics.

The tours were informal at first. But two years ago, the house became listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And this spring New York State added Stepping Stones to its new Women's Heritage Trail, in recognition of Mrs. Wilson's contributions to the self-help program that has become a model for treating addiction around the world.

A.A. is a free, voluntary fellowship of men and women who meet to help one another become and stay sober through a 12-step recovery program. There are an estimated 100,000 A.A. groups in 150 countries, with more than two million members. The Big Book, the program's bible, has sold nearly 25 million copies. Many other 12-step programs were inspired by A.A., like Narcotics Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous.

"A.A. and Al-Anon are unquestionably among the gr... ~See weblink!

1 comment:

  1. Eric A.8:36 PM

    As a member of AA, I am beyond the simple feeling of proud when it comes to Bill W. This man, along With Dr. Bob, saved me and millions of my brothers and sisters. Thank God for these men!


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